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Putin says citizens’ consolidation crucial for real breakthrough

Putin stressed that he is well aware of his "enormous responsibility before the citizens of Russia, before this entire country"

MOSCOW, March 23. /TASS/. Spectacular civic engagement and consolidation of Russians at the March 18 presidential election are crucially important and show readiness to work on a real breakthrough in the country’s development, President Vladimir Putin said in a special televised address following the announcement of final results by the Central Election Commission.

More than 67% of voters or over 73 million citizens took part in the voting and more than 76% of them (over 56 million) backed the current head of state. "This is the highest level of support in our country’s history," Putin said.

On March 18, shortly after the preliminary results were announced, Putin addressed a rally on Manezhnaya Square and spoke at his election campaign headquarters, thanking his supporters. "However, given the large-scale and unprecedented support you gave me, I believe that the words of gratitude I said in the center of Moscow are not enough. I feel the need to address you directly, all those who supported me across Russia, all citizens of Russia," Putin said.

"I believe that such spectacular civic engagement and your commitment as well as consolidation are crucially important. Especially today, when we are facing complex domestic and foreign challenges," the Russian leader stressed.

"The trust you put in me signifies for me primarily your hope for a change for the better. I expect that your praise is related to the work that has been done and those positive results that we have achieved over the past years. But it is not enough, of course. We need to make a real breakthrough. Your active participation in the election and your support show that we are ready to carry out such work, as well as to strive towards achieving such change," he said.

Putin stressed that he is well aware of his "enormous responsibility before the citizens of Russia, before this entire country." "Everything I spoke about in the course of the election campaign must be done," he underlined.

The matters that citizens raised should be addressed as soon as possible and the authorities will strive to do this, Putin said. "But promising to solve all these things immediately, right away, to make the necessary changes simply overnight, would be an absolutely irresponsible thing to do." "This would be nothing but a grand gesture, like showing off something designed only to have an immediate, short-term effect. What we really need is consistent, profound change, planned steps that will result in a stable positive outcome not only today but in the future as well."

Russia’s authorities will create new jobs and increase the effectiveness of economy, boost Russians’ real income, reduce poverty, develop infrastructure and the social sphere, including education and healthcare, address environmental and housing problems and continue to renovate and revamp small cities and villages. "All of this should be based on a powerful technological breakthrough, which is yet to be made."

The president recalled that he spoke about these matters in the Address to the Federal Assembly on March 1. "It is, essentially, a clear, concrete, detailed plan of our common action. I am sure that it is realistic, right and valid."

The head of state stressed that "all the forthcoming decisions, even the most difficult ones, will be motivated by one thing only, the need to eliminate the backlogs that still exist in various spheres, to ensure the country’s dynamic development and a brand new quality of life for the people, as well as to address the historical challenges that we face today."

"And the most important thing - in the end, all these decisions will be taken exclusively for the benefit of our country, our citizens, our children and future generations," he noted.

Addressing all Russian political forces, Putin noted that criticism, debates and discussions are important, but they must be free from irresponsible populism. "The national interests and the wellbeing of the people must be the main guideline for everybody, especially today. It is the ground for our consolidation and collaborative work."

"I want to address those citizens who voted for other candidates. I respect your choice and opinion. Political preferences must not divide us. We are all patriots of our country and we have one common concern, that of Russia’s future and prosperity," he stressed.

"Our unity, responsibility, common understanding of goals and aspirations of millions of people must be turned into Russia’s development and powerful progress. Thank you all once again for your support and trust. I am certain that together we will succeed," Putin said.

On Friday, the Central Election announced the final results of the March 18 election. Incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin was re-elected to his fourth term as Russia’s head of state winning 76.69% of the ballots, while Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin took second place with 11.77%.

Leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky came in a distant third with 5.65% of the vote, while TV personality and socialite Ksenia Sobchak (nominated by the Civil Initiative party) garnered 1.68% ending up in fourth place.

Next trailing far behind are head of the Yabloko Party’s federal political committee Grigory Yavlinsky (1.05%), Chairman of the Party of Growth and Russian Presidential Envoy for Entrepreneurs’ Rights Boris Titov (0.76%), Maxim Suraikin, nominated by the Communists of Russia party (0.68%) and head of the Russian People’s Union party Sergei Baburin (0.65%).